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Exxon Misled the Public on Climate Change, Study Says

Exxon Misled the Public on Climate Change, Study SaysExxon Misled the Public on Climate Change, Study Says

Exxon Mobil misled the public about climate change for years even as its research echoed the growing scientific consensus that global warming is real and caused by human activity, a new study finds.

The conclusion is based on a study by two Harvard University researchers who used social science methods to compare what Exxon Mobil said in nearly 200 scientific publications and internal communications on climate change with what they presented in three dozen advertisements over 15 years, CNBC reported.

The researchers' takeaway is that the more publicly available advertisements sowed doubt that climate change is real and caused by humans, while the scientific studies and private exchanges more openly acknowledged that scientific fact.

"We conclude that ExxonMobil contributed to advancing climate science—by way of its scientists' academic publications—but promoted doubt about it in advertorials. Given this discrepancy, we conclude that Exxon Mobil misled the public," the researchers wrote.

The findings potentially add grist to the mill as a number of attorneys general, including New York's Eric Schneiderman, continue to investigate whether Exxon misled shareholders. The Securities and Exchange Commission is also probing how the oil major values its fossil fuel reserves in light of global warming.

"As detailed in our filings in New York court, the attorney general's investigation of Exxon Mobil has uncovered significant evidence indicating that Exxon may have misled New York investors and consumers about the risk of climate change to the company," Amy Spitalnick, press secretary for the New York State Office of the Attorney General, told CNBC.

"We will continue to vigorously pursue our investigation, regardless of Exxon's unprecedented campaign of delay and distraction."

The Harvard researchers, Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes, presented their findings in a peer-reviewed article in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

In a New York Times op-ed, they said they were inspired to apply empirical analysis to the documents after investigations by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times put forward the notion that Exxon obscured what it long knew about climate change.

"In short, Exxon Mobil contributed quietly to climate science and loudly to raising doubts about it," Supran and Oreskes said in the op-ed.

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